Classical Persian Poetry

The spiritual foundation of classical Persian music - and to a great extent of all Persian culture - is poetry. It is difficult for those of us who grew up in Western culture to grasp the profound, majestic position of honour which is occupied by poetry in Iranian society. This passion for poetry is not confined to the highly educated; even less-educated and illiterate Iranians can often recite lengthy works of favourite poets from memory. A traditional gathering of Iranians most often includes the joyful narration of their evocative, beloved poetry.

A primary reason for the ultimate significance of poetry in Iranian culture is that its rhythm and content provide nourishment for every moment of every day. For any circumstance in which an Iranian might find him or herself, an appropriate line of poetry can soothe, enlighten, teach, guide, encourage, inspire, stimulate or motivate.

The basic nature of classical Persian poetry is profoundly humanitarian and spiritual. Intimately associated with Sufism, poetry in the Iranian sphere can be described as a means for spiritual sustenance and growth. Believed to be much older than Islam's conquest of Iran in the 7th century AD, Sufism is recognized as the embodiment of its mystical dimension. The essence of the Sufi path, and a primary theme of Persian poetry, is the struggle to transcend attachment to the material world and the individual selfhood, in order to reach the direct experience of Unity with the Divine. Sufism leads the way beyond outer appearances, and strives to purify the heart of everything other than Divine Love, known in Persian poetry as the Friend or the Beloved.

Love stories within the realm of human experience set the stage for the Love Affair with the Divine. Persian mystical poetry attempts to express the inexpressible through the use of allegory. A fundamental theme is the pain of separation from the Beloved, and longing for reunion. The seeker of Truth calls on the giver of wine to bring a deep cup, and to fill it with the means to ease this pain. In Persian poetry the Winebearer is another metaphor for Divine Love, and Wine represents spiritual understanding. Drinking deeply of this Wine not only soothes the sadness of disconnection, but makes possible the selfless, enraptured state of Reunion with the Divine.